Early Friday morning, 1:18 a.m. Pacific time, to be exact, Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent an interesting tweet.
It was in response to a Twitter user who predicted that full self-driving would eventually become the "biggest thing ever," pushing Tesla past Apple as the world's biggest company.
And then, Musk's reply:
"I think there is a >0% chance Tesla could be the biggest company"
Fair enough. Greater than zero is mathematically correct--but nothing to get excited about.
Then, within seconds, another Twitter user did get excited:
"Love the direction of that arrow!"
To which Musk then responded:
"Probably in a few months."
Wow. Really, Elon?
A short time thereafter, Musk deleted the tweet. (You can still see it here, as reported by The Washington Post.)
Of course, there are a number of theories as to what might have happened here. Did Musk mistakenly respond to the wrong tweet?
Probably not. (A greater than zero percent chance? Sure.)
More likely, though, Musk had second thoughts. More likely, he realized the power his tweet could have to move the market, inspire a hefty fine, and distract Musk from what he truly wants to do--just work.
To fully understand this hypothesis, we have to go back a few years.
Back in 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission settled with Musk and Tesla after the famous CEO tweeted that he had secured funding to take Tesla private at $420 a share, a substantial premium to its trading price at the time. The settlement resulted in stricter controls over what Musk was allowed to share on social media, specifically if it contained information that was "material" to shareholders.
That original "funding secured" tweet also led to a $20 million fine--a fine that Musk once said was "worth it." Not surprising when you consider that, as one of the world's wealthiest men, $20 million probably feels like small change.
But it's likely not the fine that bothers Musk the most when it comes to situations like this.
As a man who prides himself more on his ability to solve engineering problems than on his leadership prowess, Musk is well aware of how much of a distraction it is to be in hot water with the SEC. It takes time and mental energy to face legal proceedings, not to mention the media attention it creates.
Now, while Musk's latest tweet wasn't explicit, it could easily be perceived as having the power to influence the markets in Tesla's favor--which quite possibly would have, yet again, drawn the ire of the SEC.
But by deleting the tweet, Musk likely saved himself from countless hours of potential distraction, allowing him to focus on his work.
What's emotional intelligence got to do with it?
So, where does emotional intelligence enter the picture?
You'd expect the chief executive of a company to shoot for the stars, and when it comes to CEOs, Musk may be the most bullish of them all.
Additionally, through the years Musk has established quite the reputation for engaging with his followers on social media. It's that accessibility, coupled with his authenticity and his mission, that has helped Musk make Tesla the most valuable automaker in the world.
But a strength can easily become a weakness when it's not kept in balance. While responding to Twitter followers builds clout, late night/early morning tweets have a way of coming back to haunt you.
Would it have been better for Musk to resist the urge to tweet when he did? Possibly. But we've all made mistakes like that.
The key is to learn from those mistakes--and in this case, it seems like Musk has. Hopefully, by deleting the tweet when he did, he'll avoid a run-in with the SEC, allowing him to focus his energies elsewhere.
So remember: The next time you're tempted, resist the urge to make a permanent decision on a temporary emotion.
It's usually just not worth it.